Editor's Note: Marvel Apes #1 arrives in stores Thursday, September 4.
Joey Davidson: 3 Bullets
Erik Norris: 1 Bullet
I've pretty much been waiting for this one since the New York Comic Con. I wasn't exactly waiting anxiously or counting down the days, but I've known about it since then and have been looking forward to its eventual arrival. Marvel Apes: the greatest gimmick of all time. Here we have your favorite Marvel superheroes and villains drawn as apes and given ape-names… Spider-Monkey, Doc Ook, Iron Mandrill, and… well, you get the idea.
I've already talked to Erik [Norris] about this book, and I know he absolutely hates it. That's fine. He can hate all he wants. I know what's good. This book isn't exactly, ahem, good. It isn't bad either! It's just a good time. Marvel Apes is a straightforward joke with no cryptic punch lines. Marvel knows what they are up to: the title page with the issue's credits has an apology from one of the team and the word "proudly" is crossed out in "Marvel Proudly Presents." The funnies are slapped down on the pages and panels with ease and obviousness that will either drive you away or lure you in. I, of course, was sucked in.
The not so intricate plot involves the story of Marty in the normal Marvel universe. He was born looking like an ape, from head to toe. This, of course, led him to a life of being unaccepted. After trying to break into the superhero biz on several occasions, Marty chooses to give himself to scientific testing. There he meets a girl with an inter-dimensional portal and all, as they say, is history. He's transported to a Marvel universe with apes in place of humans.
Like I said…if you're looking for a chance to pick up nearly forty pages of superheroes gone ape then look no further. This book is a good source of cheesy humor combined with a few pokes at the general ridiculousness that is the superhero comic book. There are a few moments of devious plot development but isn't anything that's going to drive this storyline into the realm of greatness. It's enough to keep you reading and laughing at things like Captain America punching Monkey Hitler. Yeah, it's funny.
This book is nothing more than an inside joke for Marvel fans. I don't recommend it for anyone who is strapped for cash during a normal summer loaded with events. If you don't have the money to spare and are sitting on the fence over buying book, then leave Marvel Apes alone. You will feel like you've wasted your money on a few punch lines. But if you have the extra bucks and like monkeys like everyone else on the planet Earth, I recommend you consider adding this to your bag. Just give it a try, unless you find yourself disgusted with Marvel's blatant money grabbing scheme. I'm not.
Okay, here's the deal. The "House of Ideas" has bled the gimmick well dry, and Marvel Apes is what makes up the last drop of the creative water. I understand where the draw comes from. Monkeys, baboons, gorillas, and chimps are funny creatures. They love to throw poop, slap their hairless asses, and eat bugs out of each other's hair. However, there needs to be something more to make wasting paper on this concept worth it, and Marvel Apes doesn't have it. I really can't see anyone putting down their copy of Marvel Apes #1 and saying to themselves, "now that was good reading." Hell, I can't even picture anyone saying it was entertaining.
Like I said, the story of Marvel Apes is not creative at all. It simply makes the Marvel heroes into ape counterparts and renames them to fit their new look. Spider-Man becomes Spider-Monkey. Doctor Octopus becomes Doctor Ook, and so on and so forth. The actual dialogue of Marvel Apes #1 is also just as bad. I don't know who is to blame really. Is it Marvel for jamming the monkey lingo down writer Karl Kesel's throat, driving the point home that these aren't your grand-pappies' heroes, or the other way around? All I have to say is that whoever decided this was a good, and creative, idea needs to have this hung over their head when they reach the pearly gates in the sky and be judged accordingly. I actually feel dumber because of this book. I mean, to make my point, Kesel actually writes in the line, "is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see us?" Seriously, that line is used. By this point I just wanted the book to be over and done with so I could off myself.
The sole reason for the single bullet rating is because of Ramon Bach's artwork. While nothing spectacular, it does its job of making the story easy to follow (as if a book titled Marvel Apes was hard to understand). Plus they are pictures I can look at, simple as that. However, if monkeys are so funny and a great concept/foundation for a fun story, Bach's artwork does fail to capture that sense of "goofy" monkeys are usually known for. It would have been nice to see some of the things I mentioned in my first paragraph hidden into the backgrounds of panels, giving readers the incentive to dig into each page and use their acute eyesight to pick up on these winks and nods to monkey stereotypes.
In the end, all I can do is beg to the higher powers I never have to put myself through reading another issue of Marvel Apes. While I didn't approach this series looking for the next Watchmen, I didn't expect to come away more disgusted than I do from reading some Chris Claremont stories, and I hate Chris Claremont.
What did you think of this book?
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